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Alex boys soccer: Youth movement gets a boost

Devin Crowe controls the ball in the Sauk Rapids-Rice zone during the home opener last Tuesday. Crowe scored three goals in a 6-1 victory.

The Alexandria boys soccer team is working to give young players who are new to the varsity roster experience over the course of the season.

With only six seniors on the team this year, the Cardinals are focused on getting a contingent of inexperienced sophomores and juniors playing time at the varsity level.

In their first home game of the season on Tuesday, the Cardinals came away with a 6-1 win against Sauk Rapids-Rice. The win helped push their record to 2-2 on the young season.

Sophomore Devin Crowe netted three goals in the game, and Kagan Foster, Kevin Roedel and Jesse Ohman each scored once for the Cardinals. The six goals were more than they scored in their first three games of the season combined.

Goaltender Zach Lamb only allowed one goal on nine shots before he was replaced by Quinton Nienaber for the final 10 minutes of the game.

The victory was a nice change of pace as the Cardinals were coming off a 6-1 road loss against Sartell-St. Stephen last Thursday.

"We've kind of had a problem coming out pretty slow for most of our games," head coach Cahil Collins said. "Today we came out strong; we put the ball in the net a couple of times right in the beginning and set a real good tone for the rest of the game."

Collins said the team is working on getting their younger players ready for future seasons. In their first few games, the Cardinals are focusing on making smart plays with the ball on offense.

"Mainly just possession, controlling the ball, trying to move the ball up the field," Collins said.

The experienced varsity players are working with their younger teammates to speed up the level of play. The varsity game is much quicker than in junior varsity and other lower levels of soccer.

"We've got to get them ready to play with some speed," Ohman said. "Because varsity's a lot quicker than JV, so you want to be playing a lot faster, thinking faster and it's just a lot quicker."

Coming off a 5-10-2 season last year, the Cardinals will need support from inexperienced players. Many of these players had the opportunity to move up to the varsity after they lost 13 letter winners from last season.

"The team's playing really tough, we're trying to be the best we can be," Ohman said. "We've got a lot of new guys kind of coming in that haven't played varsity, but they're really stepping up."

Facing teams they are more competitive with, like Sauk Rapids-Rice, gives players the opportunity to work on controlling the ball on the attack. The Cardinals hope to use their 6-1 victory as momentum for future games.

"This is a very good game, we were kind of evenly matched and it really made the guys play some very intense soccer and work the possession," Lamb said. "We just like to continue working and building up our skills after every game."

The two senior goaltenders, Lamb and Nienaber, have been working with freshman Zach Harstad to improve his play in net. Harstad is currently on the junior varsity, but next year he will likely move up to the next level when the senior class graduates.

"We've been working with Zach a little bit, getting him ready to step up when he needs to next year," Lamb said.

The Cardinals have noticed younger players are willing to learn from older players and coaches. This gives them an opportunity to be increasingly competitive in the next few seasons.

"I think it's going to be an exciting season because these boys are really stepping it up from being JV one [and] going to varsity," Lamb said. "I think it's a big learning experience because this is a young team, and it's going to be very exciting for them in the future."

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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